Skeptic News: Guitars for Quackery?

Radiohead have donated a guitar used on their albums Kid A and Amnesiac to a charity raising money for a young girl with an inoperable cancer.  (As reported in the Guardian). An understandable and commendable move and the band should be applauded for their good intentions. However a recent post by ZenBuffy (based on this story in Ireland) shows why this course of action may be misguided at best or damaging at worst.

Dr Stanislaw Burzynski  is a somewhat controversial figure in cancer treatment who claims to have discovered a cure for cancers – antineoplastons. Which would be wonderful if true however few scientists working to cure and treat cancer agree with his claims. To reiterate from a previous post on the subject:

The National Cancer Institute, the American Government’s principal agency for cancer research and training, states:

“Published clinical trial results are available for a relatively small number of patients, and the effectiveness of antineoplastons as a cancer therapy remains uncertain. Most cancer specialists believe there is insufficient evidence to recommend use of antineoplastons except perhaps in the context of clinical trials that will provide reliable information on the safety and effectiveness of this treatment.”

The American Cancer Society also says of antineoplastons:

“While many articles have been published and dozens of clinical trials against many types of cancer have been ongoing at Dr. Burzynski’s clinic for several years, there have not been any randomized controlled trials—the type of study that is required for new anticancer drugs to be approved by the FDA and recommended by conventional oncologists. …  If antineoplaston therapy works, we should have scientific studies showing what percentage of patients treated have survived and for how long, as well as evidence showing how Dr. Burzynski’s method stacks up against conventional cancer treatment…. Until we have credible scientific evidence showing what antineoplastons are, how they act in the body, and what realistic expectations of treatment with them might be, I see no reason for any cancer patient to take this route.””

There is also the issue of the amount Burzynski charges for his treatments an amount that runs into the hundreds of thousands and encourages families to give up their life savings and to raise money from others to fund his “trials”. The problem with this is Burzynski’s approach to trial registration and the reporting of his results. Antineoplasteons are registered to be tested against many cancers as if it is a panacea which is highly unlikely for any treatment for anything as varied as cancer. There are a shocking lack of completed trials (and a large volume of trials withdrawn): The clinic is currently recruiting for ten trials but previously have withdrawn 7, terminated 2 and completed only 1 (for which I can find no record of any results). The rest of the trials registered status have not been verified in two years or more and as such are considered “unknown”.

In short it seems again that desperate people are being sold false hope.

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